Design science for small scale studies: Recommendations for undergraduates and junior researchers




Design science, Research methodology, Small-scale studies, Bachelor’s theses, Master’s theses


Design science is a research methodology that can be applied for both small scale studies at undergraduate level and for large scale application in the industry. Design science is a research methodology with several branches, with slightly different processes built around a common foundation. This paper has a focus on the branch developed by Johannesson and Perjons, and the five-phase model that is included in this branch: 1) explicate problem, 2) define requirements, 3) design and develop artefact, 4) demonstrate artefact, and 5) evaluate artefact. All these five phases must of course be carried out in a complete large-scale project in many real-world developments. However, the problem with applying a design science research project for undergraduates is that a thorough implementation of all the five phases is often too demanding for a Bachelor’s or a Master's thesis. A reason for this is that several of the phases are better carried out in an iterative manner to obtain a quality result, which is time-consuming. The aim of this paper is to discuss the challenges and opportunities in applying design science for small scale studies, such as those conducted by undergraduates in their theses or by researchers new to the field. Based on this discussion, the paper concludes with a set of recommendations for how the design science methodology can be modified and applied to accommodate these smaller studies. The main recommendation is, as the principle for quality research, to delimit and to choose a specific focus that is carried out in depth. Some examples of focuses, that also are recommended by Johannesson and Perjons, are requirements and development focused design science research or evaluation focused design science research. An interesting follow-up to this position paper would be to study the application of design science in Bachelor’s theses and where the emphasis is placed? Moreover, it would be interesting to investigate how design science is applied by researchers and compare if their emphasis in the design science methodology differs from that of undergraduates.